The ramblings of a freelance writer, novelist and avid reader.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

HP Monday – In which I combine my geeky passions into one blog post and loose all readership potential

As I’ve mentioned before, I hang out at my local Barnes & Noble a lot. I know. Friends and readers who are small publishing and book store owners or employees; I know it is the Death Star. And yet, I use it like my own personal library – grabbing books for reference or lunch time reading and carrying my mini Eee PC (best Christmas present EVER) with me to type and type and type. They have free wi fi, I’m sorry!

Right now I’m in the café, typing away with my grande English Breakfast hot tea – it comes in a coffee cup with a lid so I have issues calling this a cuppa – it’s like the coffee house, Americanized version. There are two things that amuse me about the B&N café: One – no matter what day or time I’m here, there are always a group of real housewives of Edina playing a game of gin while discussing their rough lives in these tough economical times; and two – there is one outlet in the café which in the past has always been a hot spot for people with lap tops and plugs. Then one day they moved a giant trash bin in front of it – which is on wheels and therefore fairly easy to shove to one side and still get at the outlet. A few weeks after the bin shoving began I walked into the café, sat down at the empty table near the outlet, pulled out my plug and computer and realized the entire outlet had been covered in duct tape. Apparently the B&N people would like their cozy, office-type-work-all-day-and-don’t-buy-anything feel to go away. Well, I’ve one up-ed you Death Star: With my trusty Eee PC I have 9 hours of battery life without a plug! Yeah, if you can’t keep up with technology you might as well get out of the fight.

I thought my B&N story had a point, but I’m not sure what it was anymore. Let’s just go with…Wherever you choose to write – make sure there’s some distracting atmosphere to kick start those creative juices but not too much distraction.

Onto Harry Potter and his goblet of fire we go. I’m looking at a paperback Scholastic copy I took off the YA shelf at B&N before I sat down in the café (See what I mean by library – why would I lug my copy around if there’s plenty of copies waiting for me here?). I really like book 4. In fact if not for book 3, book 4 may be my favorite. This realization makes me think of an episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, which is one of – if not my actual – favorite TV series. It’s probably hard to pinpoint my favorite episode of the series – there’s seven seasons to choose from – but I can definitely tell you season 3 is my favorite season (Are we seeing the parallels yet everyone); although, many of my favorite episodes are in season 4…hmmm. It’s a really good season with a lot of change and growing – first year of college change and growing – not everything is as perfect (a little irony here since the high school actually blew up, the principal was eaten by the commencement speech giver who’d turned into an apocalyptic snake, and Buffy’s first love walked away from her at the end of season 3) as it was in high school. But things aren’t full-on horrible either. In hindsight year 4 (in both Buffy and Harry’s chronicles –um, can we take a moment to check out the double-letter-then-y ending of both our MC’s names. Wow I’m a geek!) might be the best year after all. If anyone out there likes book 4 the best please comment and tell us why. For those of you who don’t – a lot of us still think 3 is our favorite – then think about why not number four?

I’ve thought about that question off and on all week, and I think the answer comes somewhere in the ending. Don’t get me wrong, the ending is great – not so much for the wizarding world, but for the reader – it doesn’t get much better than the bad guy coming back and the adventure really starting to go somewhere (spoiler alert – I like the ending of six the best…which is why I might have some unresolved issues with the movie ending of six. And no, I don’t know why that is either – in a couple of months I hope to figure it out though). There is always a reason to kill off a decent character, and if you are invested in the character or the impact of his death than the reader can be affected more than the characters in the story. Please remind me to go back to this concept when we discuss the last book because I have some questions.

But here in book 4 we reach the end of the tasks, we’ve been hearing that they are life and death tasks, but we don’t (at least I didn’t – at all) really think it would go that far. I mean Cedric is dead at the end. His life has been cut short and thrown away for no good reason (well except the whole furthering the plot thing). If we as the reader at anytime thought these books were all happy-go-lucky, the bad guys been vanquished now everything is just peachy keen and hunky dory, the end of book 4 slaps us in the face. Hard. And who likes to be blind-sided like that?

Here’s my other parallel to Buffy. Yep, I’ve got another one. There’s an episode in season 6 called “Tabula Rasa”. The episode is hysterical. Everyone looses their memory and ends up using circumstantial evidence to try and decipher who they are and how they relate to each other. The episode highlights the best & worst qualities of each character working totally outside the context box. Oh, and there’s an actual loan shark (like literally) and kittens are used as currency (stupid currency, but still).

I firmly believe there is a Buffy episode for everyone. And this episode was made for my friend Beth; so I made her sit down and watch it. At the time she was earning her psychology doctorate – a degree she now has – I knew she’d get a kick out of each character’s inner mind workings. While we were watching the episode – because really the most fun part of picking episodes for people is watching them watch said episode – she turned to me with this huge smile on her face and said, “This is great and funny. I’ll have to watch this every time I need a pick me up.”

And I said, “Well maybe you want to wait until the end. There’s a great big DOWN to every UP on this show.”

If you’ve seen the episode you know exactly what I mean. Hello, roller coaster of emotions. It’s not so nice to see you again. Yeah everything really sucks at the end of this episode. All of the relationships are broken – some beyond repair. And because you’ve been happily tooling along, watching some really great, light-hearted fun stuff, the downward drop is fantastically, shockingly heinous.

And that is why I think book 4 can never be my favorite. You’ve tricked me into a false sense of security JK Rowling and then the Dark Lord rises again, the death eaters return to full strength and a young wizard dies because he’s in the wrong place at the wrong time. And even though our hero did the right thing in the maze – these things still happen. In fact doing the right thing caused these things to happen. And that too is fantastically, shockingly heinous.

I’m holding off the movie discussion until next week. Then we will wrap up book 4 and move onto book 5 - Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. Because I just wouldn’t be me if I didn’t mention it, Phoenix is SO fire imagery!

Comment. Discuss. Write already! Also, remind me to talk about Mad Eye Moody next week too…both of him.


  1. I admire your determination at the B&N. As a published author of a fantasy trilogy, I welcome you to check out my latest book, The Magic of Fuller, book one, "Keeper of the Stone".

  2. Love it. "Let's offer free wi-fi, and discourage anyone from using it!" And I imagine eavesdropping on the Real Housewives of Edina offers a lot of potential story fodder...

  3. Do you think that the similarities for Buffy and Harry come mostly because of the archetypal hero cycle? Or the development of the archetypal hero into a more advanced being? Or do you think that it's a wild coincidence?

    I think that Harry in Book 4 does a better job of being a selfless hero than Buffy ever does. I think she often tries to be selfless, but she is often too emotional to separate herself. In the long run she does understand that Angel's leaving was for the right reasons, but she never gets over it.

    In utter contrast to that comment, let me say that Harry has a problem getting over his parents' deaths and not lashing out at Voldemort when he provokes him. He also can never get it through his head that when Dumbeldor isn' talking to him, it's for his own good for some reason. So instead of being all cool and standing back, he follows Dumbeldor around and yells at him.

    What's my point? Who knows? Hopefully I'll come back again and visit this week and write more.

  4. Wow. I feel quite privileged today. Two published authors have commented on my blog! Thank you both. And yes, the housewives have made it into some of my writing, how could they not?

    Matt – or third author, SO CLOSE to becoming published himself – I think the hero cycle is the reason I love Harry and Buffy both so much (see Mariah’s undergrad thesis on Frodo Baggins as the Anti-Hero for more confirmation of this point) and maybe this is also how I can draw so many parallels. BUT, I like to think it’s all just coincidence because that makes it more awesome. Side note – Um, Buffy at the end of season 5 in “The Gift” was fairly selfless, and almost mother-love like (see, coincidence so much more awesome).

    Sweet Lord I’m a geek. Why are you all reading and posting here again?! Thank you all and please keep it up.